H1N1 and North Carolina Hog Farms

The young author of the long-time best-seller “Everything is IlluminatedJonathan Safran Foer has written a new book, “Eating Animals” about the virtues of veganism.

One of his arguments has to do with the connection between the H1N1 influenza virus and large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations — defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as agricultural operations over a certain size “where animals are kept and raised in confined situations.

“This swine flu that’s now an epidemic, they’ve been able to trace it back to a farm in North Carolina,”

says Foer.

“A hog farm. Nobody knows this. Nobody talks about it. We’ve been told this lie that it came from Mexico.”

Mr. Safran Foer was apparently referring to research that shows that the H1N1 influenza pandemic has genetic roots in a swine-flu outbreak at a North Carolina pig farm in the late 1990s.
However Liz Wagstrom, a staff veterinarian at the National Pork Board, said the claim that the novel 2009 H1N1 virus originally came from swine farms in North Carolina is “patently false.”

Researchers at that time did find an H3N2 flu virus in pigs there, but it had a different genetic architecture than the current H1N1 pandemic virus circulating around the world. And those trying to link the H1N1 to factory farming

“are using a scare tactic to try to cast a negative light on modern pork production,”

says Ms. Wagstrom.

An article in the September issue of Environmental Health Perspectives titled

“Swine C.A.F.O.’s & Novel H1N1: Separating Facts from Fears,”

quotes Dr. Gregory Gray, the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Public Health:

When respiratory viruses get into these confinement facilities, they have continual opportunity to replicate, mutate, reassort and recombine into novel strains. The best surrogates we can find in the human population are prisons, military bases, ships or schools. But respiratory viruses can run quickly through these [human] populations and then burn out, whereas in C.A.F.O.s — which often have continual introductions of [unexposed] animals — there’s a much greater potential for the viruses to spread and become endemic.

Swine Flu Seen As Peaking – But Still Too Soon To Throw In The Face Mask

While cases of the A(H1N1) “swine” influenza virus are on the decline in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, Senior World Health Organization (WHO) official, Keiji Fukuda said that it is too early to declare the pandemic “over” – as it does continue in parts of Europe and Central Asia at “high-levels”.

The flu is probably peaking because the estimated number of new patients has fallen for a second consecutive week, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

fluNew cases fell to 1.32 million last week, after 131,972 patients were reported to have visited the roughly 5,000 medical institutions covered by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases’ survey. The drop brought the average number of new patients per institution to 27.39 from 31.82 the previous week.

However, according to the WHO, there is a chance that there could be another wave, late in the winter season or early in the spring season.

The World Health Organization has pledged to continue support for the most vulnerable countries, the poorer ones, by providing them with limited vaccine supplies.
Thus far, 6 vaccine makers and 12 countries have responded to a WHO appeal for assistance, earlier this year, with pledges of about 180 million doses of vaccine to be distributed to roughly 95 countries.

The underlining message is that it is not too late to distribute vaccinations before things get even more out of hand.

The global death toll since the swine flu pandemic first emerged in April is approaching the 10,000 mark, with at least 9,596 deaths recorded as late as December 6.
New swine flu cases fell to 1.32 million in the week to Sunday after 131,972 patients were reported to have visited the roughly 5,000 medical institutions covered by the survey. The drop brought the average number of new patients per institution to 27.39 from 31.82 the previous week, the institute said.

Government Trying Not To Invite H1N1 to Christmas Party

President Barack Obama has declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency. He has told his health secretary to suspend federal guidelines at hospitals and speed the process of treating infected people. In other words, he has directed Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius to bypass federal rules when opening alternative care sites, such as offsite hospital centers at schools or community centers, if needed. The speeded up process of treating victims would involve requiring patients in emergency situations to give less information and to quicken access to treatment.

H1N1The outbreak is still sweeping the land and has killed, so far, more than 1,000 people in the United States. On April 26, the administration declared swine flu a public health emergency. They immediately accepted the shipment of roughly 12 million doses of flu-fighting medications from a federal stockpile to states across the country. At the time, there were 20 confirmed cases in the U.S. of people recovering quickly and easily. There was no vaccine against swine flu, but the CDC had taken the initial step necessary for producing one.

Obama wrote last Friday in his new declaration:

“As a nation, we have prepared at all levels of government, and as individuals and communities, taking unprecedented steps to counter the emerging pandemic.”

As of last Wednesday only 11 million doses of vaccine had been shipped to health departments, doctor’s offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however according to new government goals, there should be about 50 million doses of swine flu vaccine out by mid-November and 150 million in December.

Those who think that the Swine Flu has flown are living in a dangerous bubble. It is more rampant now than ever. Almost 100 American children have died from H1N1 and 46 U.S. states have “widespread” flu activity.

The swine influenza, which is grown in chicken eggs, is indeed a worldwide epidemic. Globally more than 5,000 lives have been claimed by the nasty disease so far.

Guess Who Has Swine Flu Now

A couple of days ago, we reported that WHO had issued a warning concerning a virulent strain of H1N1. Well, we hope that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe doesn’t have that one, because he has just contracted Swine Flu.

Alvaro UribeUribe, 57, started feeling a bit fluish on Friday, the very same day he was at a meeting of South American presidents in Argentina. So now, the leaders of South America are all at risk of infection. The good news is that none of his family or close associates have been diagnosed with the disease.

At the meeting, Uribe was touting his proposed plan to allow U.S. troops more access to Colombian bases as part of his government’s fight against drug traffickers and rebels. Little did he know that a virus was spying on the meeting. Colombia’s foreign ministry is now contacting other countries who were involved in the meeting.

Guess who was also there? Our friend, Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez, who says he feels fine. Well shucks. That’s just disappointing. Though he had nice things to say to his rival Uribe, who he’s threatened to attack militarily several times in the past few months. “I regret this and hope there are no repercussions for the president’s health and that nobody else has caught the disease,” said Chavez. We hope he means it. Though, on second thought, it doesn’t really matter.

President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias has already been infected with the disease and recovered, and the same will probably happen with Uribe, assuming he hasn’t contracted the virulent strain.

Colombia has reported 621 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu, including Uribe’s. There have been 34 deaths from the illness, the government says.

New Virulent Swine Flu Strain Reported by WHO

We’re generally not the ones to fuel media hype about swine flu. I mean, really, what can you seriously do to prepare for the eventuality of infection? Not much, if anything, besides be self-aware and seek immediate medical attention when you have any symptoms. That, and if you smoke and are overweight, quit and lose the weight. Both increase the chances of serious complications or even death from H1N1. So do those things. Otherwise, there’s probably no way to prevent yourself from getting infected besides luck.

Swine Flu VirusWell, I guess if you’re really gung ho about protecting yourself, you could put on a Hazmat suit and live in the woods until flu season is over. But I’m betting that you’re not willing to go that far, so here’s a piece of news that may make you give that option just a split second of deliberation before you completely discount it, which of course you will.

Doctors are now reporting a severe form of swine flu that goes straight to the lungs, causing severe illness in otherwise healthy young people and requiring expensive hospital treatment, says the World Health Organization. A quick infection of the lungs requires immediate attention and aggressive treatment in an ICU. They are also warning countries in the northern hemisphere, which is where most countries these days happen to be, to prepare for a second wave of flu.

Minorities and indigenous populations seem to have an infection rate 4 to 5 times higher than the general population, assumed due to health conditions and lower standards of living. Epidemic levels are being reported in Japan, and the situation is worsening in the tropical zones of the globe.

To get some perspective, about half a million people die from flu every single year. The reason everyone is making such a big deal out of this one is that it doesn’t originate in humans and we don’t have a developed immunity to it. But don’t freak out from reading this post. Just be alert, and make sure you’re breathing alright.

WHO plans “new” ways to provide Swine Flu protection

While it is still summer in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are really not aware that the H1N1 flu virus, otherwise known as swine flu is still very much with us and is due to make a very unpleasant appearance in many North American and European communities once the weather starts turning cooler this fall.

Spanish Influenza 1918-1919So much in fact that WHO and other major health organizations are fearing that the disease may reach pandemic proportions similar for the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918/19 that killed an estimated 40 million people worldwide. Taking today’s population figures into account, that figure would be around 100 million today.

While medical laboratories are working non-stop to perfect an effective vaccine against the H1N1 virus, a number of scientific experts are fearing that a vaccine may not be effective enough against H1N1, which is now said to be much more deadly than normal “seasonal flu” viruses. As noted by a researcher named Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, who wrote in the health journal Nature:

“When we conducted the experiments in ferrets and monkeys, the seasonal virus did not replicate in the lungs… The H1N1 virus replicates significantly better in the lungs.”

What this means, in layman’s language, is that the swine flu virus, as comparable with the 1918 Spanish flu virus, is capable of embedding itself deep within the lungs and causing severe pulmonary infections. This is also something much more serious than seasonal fu viruses which usually cause fewer problems with the lungs.

Another problem that could make swine flu more serious in many people is the fact that many more people suffer from obesity nowadays than in 1918; a condition that is said to cause more chances of complications than in people not overweight.

The WHO vaccines being developed are said to contain what are known as “live attenuated influenza viruses” which are simply live H1N1 viruses that have been weakened, but could still pose a serious threat to human health – especially in people who already suffer from chronic health problems, such as elderly people.

So what can one do to be better prepared this winter? On way of being better prepared against H1N1 flu virus is to watch you weight and participate in a daily exercise program, as well as eating a more natural diet. Making sure that you maintain a high level of vitamin D in your body, whether by adequate sunshine or by food supplements, as well as adequate sleep, should go along way to building up a “natural immunity” against all types of influenza viruses, including swine flu.

FDA Waging War on Natural Swine Flu Remedies

The US Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) is trying to censure all companies producing natural product remedies which are labeled as being effective in treating the H1N1 influenza virus, otherwise known as swine flu. The situation appears to be getting so intense that the FDA is putting out notices against these companies, saying”

“Firms that fail to take correction action,” the FDA warns, “may also be referred to the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations for possible criminal prosecution for violations of the FFDC Act and other federal laws.”

What seems to be going on is that only remedies that have been “approved” by the FDA, including Tamiflu (the anti viral drug produced by “Big Pharma” companies like Roche) and a new anti-swine flu vaccine also being developed by these mega pharmaceutical companies, are getting the blessing of the American watch dog cabinet department; and is being paid for by American taxpayers – many of whom won’t be able to receive the vaccine due to supply shortages.

Health observers are saying that by the time the new vaccine (said to be effective against the H1N1-A version of the virus) becomes available, the virus will have already mutated and combined with “local” flu viruses, making the vaccine’s effectiveness virtually useless.

Already, a wealth of natural herbal remedies against various forms of flu viruses is available in holistic and natural products stores. Many of them have been seen to help give a natural immunity to these viruses including ones like Avian or “bird flu” and SARS. But resistance to these remedies, including fortified Royal Jelly (made by bees), Vitamin C and D, Omega 3 oils, and olive leaf extract, has been going on for years and is nothing new. The hysteria being caused by the H1N1 virus (which appears to be no more deadly that the annual types of influenza that kills thousands to people world-wide) has resulted in even the White House becoming involved in trying to “protect” the American public from the disease.

Although not so prevalent now, with summer here and most people spending a lot of time outdoors, the H1N1 virus will most likely become more prevalent this coming fall and winter when most people are indoors – especially in shopping malls, schools and universities and other places where large groups of people often congregate (including indoor sports arenas and stadiums ). By the way, Vitamin D, obtained by most people from exposure from sunshine, is one of the best things to help a person build up a natural immunity against these viruses.

Swine flu cover-up in America?

H1N1The death of an assistant principal in New York City, along with a few other disturbing factors, may indicate that the H1N1 influenza, otherwise known as swine flu, may be spreading faster in the US than previously thought. The death on Saturday of the asst. principal is the first confirmed death in NYC from the disease, although a few dozen have been suspected as contracting it.

Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) admits that they only have tallied 4,714 “confirmed” cases of the virus in the US so far; and that due to the way they test samples, which have to be only in their laboratories. Taking this in mind, estimates for people now say to have been infected by the disease now run to at least 100,000. With warm weather now in the Northern Hemisphere, the number of cases of flu will be less due to people being exposed to sunlight and with it, ample does of vitamin D, said to be very effective against flu viruses, including H1N1. But next fall and winter will be different matter, however; and many health authorities fear that flu cases will go up then when levels of vitamin D in the public will be less. The opposite is true in countries like Australia, and Argentina, and South Africa, where being in the Southern Hemisphere, their seasons are reversed.

A similar pattern occurred in the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 when numbers of flu cases also decreased during the spring and summer months and later returned with a vengeance with the onset of cold weather.

Another fear among the health authorities is that the H1N1 virus will mutate by “mixing” with other strains of influenza, making any developed vaccines ineffective in preventing or treating it. They say that if a vaccine is developed for the present strain, as found originally in Mexico, it could be virtually worthless later on after the virus has mixed with local flu strains. This could result in a situation similar to that which occurred in 1918.

The ones benefiting from all of this are the “big pharmas” or large pharmaceutical companies who sell both vaccines and remedies for the virus. There are even rumors going around that the swine flu have started in the first place due to “human error”; or as a result of a mistake made in a pharmaceutical laboratory. How’s that as a topic for a Stephen King novel?

First New York Death of H1N1

The first death in NYC is an assistant manager at a Queens school. I stopped hearing about the H1N1 Novel Influenza A in the last few days and I sort of assumed it was gearing down. In most of the news sources I read that the flu is for the most part mild but is risky for people with health issues. Then this happened;

A beloved Queens assistant principal became the city’s first swine flu death Sunday night – and health officials warned to expect new severe cases. Mitchell Wiener, 55, died at 6:17 p.m. at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, six days after he got sick and four days after he was hospitalized with a temperature of 103. Daily News

I went to the CDC site and these are symptoms to look out for:

The symptoms of this new H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this new H1N1 virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. The high risk groups for novel H1N1 flu are not known at this time but it’s possible that they may be the same as for seasonal influenza. People at higher risk of serious complications from seasonal flu include people age 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people of any age with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people who are immunosuppressed (e.g., taking immunosuppressive medications, infected with HIV).

Possible treatment drugs are these:

There are two influenza antiviral medications that are recommended for use against H1N1 flu. The drugs that are used for treating H1N1 flu are called oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu ®) and zanamivir (Relenza ®). As the H1N1 flu spreads, these antiviral drugs may become in short supply. Therefore, the drugs will be given first to those people who have been hospitalized or are at high risk of complications. The drugs work best if given within 2 days of becoming ill, but may be given later if illness is severe or for those at a high risk for complications.

They are seeing now that half the Influenza cases are H1N1 – this is the FluView for the week ending May 9, 2009…

N1H1 US MAP MAY 2009

N1H1 Flu Strain Believed Linked to Smithfield Factory Farms

Smithfield Farms Perote, Veracruz, Mexico

New developments in the ongoing swine flu epidemic appears to connect this “cocktail” of swine, avian and human influenza viruses to large “factory farms” operated by the giant Smithville Foods swine farms in Mexico. The flu outbreak, now listed officially by the World Health Organization at Level 5 (regional epidemic proportions) is on the verge of being a global pandemic with new cases being noted in a number of countries, and Mexico’s largest cities literally shut down as a result.

Smithfield, considered to be America’s largest commercial pork products company, raises nearly 1 million porkers annually in massive “factory farms” outside of the city of Perote in Veracruz. For years, residents of Perote have complained of the stench emulating from the farms which is a result of thousands of animals living in overcrowded conditions, with pig feces, urine, and food wastes polluting the air and water supplies of a wide geographical area. The picture above is of the “Lagoon” – the pink color a result of several millions of litres of pig faeces, blood and pig corpses. Such conditions are a natural breeding ground of a number of diseases, and the virus may now believed to have been spread by certain types of flies that reproduce in the pig waste and eventually find their way to hombres humanos (human beings) in the capital, Mexico City, about 100 miles away.

Granjas Carroll Mexico

The Smithfield farm, run by a Mexican subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raises around 950,000 swine per year. The human side of the disease is now believed to have originated in a small village named La Gloria, located in the same vicinity.

The link between the hog farms near Perote and the disease itself appears to be receiving more than casual attention in a number of Mexican media sources, including Vera Cruz’s largest newspaper La Marcha. Smithfield company executives, afraid of this connection becoming a “pig in a poke”, are trying to play the entire matter down, and their concern has even filtered up to the White House itself; with President Obama trying to assure Americans that commercial pork products are safe to eat, despite the ongoing epidemic. The President has more than enough matters to deal with in his 100th day in office, and being in the midst of a world-wide flu pandemic isn’t helping, with new cases being diagnosed in American daily.

Smithfield Foods in its May 1st press release said:

We are pleased that the continuing coverage has included the affirmation by public health officials, government officials, including President Obama and others, that the A(H1N1) influenza virus is not transmitted by food and can only pass from human to human. I am also pleased to reconfirm that there is no evidence at this time that the hogs at Veracruz, or anywhere else, have been infected with A(H1N1) influenza.

This notwithstanding and so the public can have full confidence in the health of our Mexican pig herd, yesterday we submitted samples from our farm in Veracruz for further testing under the direction of Mexican governmental authorities, including genetic sequence analysis that will determine what, if any, strains of flu are present. The results will enable us to conclude with certainty that the A(H1N1) strain is not present in our hogs. These tests will take approximately twelve days.

Mexican health authorities are keeping a close watch on the condition of the swine in these mega farms, but so far, no orders have been issued to slaughter pigs as a preventive measure.

As a side note, Egyptian authorities have authorized the slaughter of the country’s entire hog population of around 300,000. Being a predominantly Muslim country; with only around 10% of the population being non-Muslims and therefore religiously able to eat pork, the Egyptian authorities may see this as a “window of opportunity” to rid their country of an animal that is religiously taboo in most households.

In Mexico, however, it’s the other way around; with pork considered an important food source, as well as an export commodity. It might now be a good idea for Granjas Carroll to clean up their act to make their pig farms a bit more hygienic. Perhaps this might be also an opportunity for private pig farms, especially organic ones, to offer a cleaner and safer product than that produced in these mega swine facilities.

Hat Tip: Grist